By: Don Shaw email: don.shaw@pennsylvaniachronicle.com (570) 543-2961

Pennsylvania ACLU goes to court to stop victim rights amendment, “Marcy’s Law” vote from appearing on November ballot

Pennsylvania ACLU goes to court to stop victim rights amendment, “Marcy’s Law” vote from appearing on November ballot

Harrisburg, PA

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm Dechert LLP filed a state lawsuit today arguing that the pending Marsy’s Law ballot question is unconstitutional because it combines many changes into a single amendment — what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has called “logrolling.” The lawsuit was filed in Commonwealth Court on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and an individual, Lorraine Haw of Philadelphia.

According to the ACLU the proposed amendment impacts three articles and eight different sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution, each proposal must be considered as a separate amendment, the lawsuit states. Marsy’s Law would create 15 constitutional rights for crime victims that would change how courts treat people who have been accused of a crime, including whether they can get bail, who they can call as witnesses, the pardons process, and the right to be free from double jeopardy, which prohibits the government from prosecuting a person twice for the same crime. Both the ACLU and the League of Women Voters oppose Marsy’s Law.

“We all recognize the harm that is done when someone is victimized, but this ballot question undermines fundamental rights that date back to the founding of our country,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “People who are accused of crimes have constitutional rights because they are facing the full weight of a government that is trying to deprive them of their liberty.

“Whatever one believes about Marsy’s Law, legislators proposed a fatally flawed constitutional amendment. The court should force the legislature to go back to the drawing board so that voters can consider these proposals one at a time, as required by the Constitution.”

Jennifer Storm, the Pennsylvania Victim Adovcate said in a statement, “As the Victim Advocate, I continue to be shocked and disappointed by the ACLU’s attacks on the rights of crime victims of whom are disproportionately silenced by our judicial system. We have been actively working on Marsy’s Law for more than three years; the ACLU has never raised these specific concerns, and I call into question the timing of their filing.

Absentee voters have already received their ballots, many of whom have cast and returned their votes. This eleventh hour tactic seeks to disenfranchise and distract voters who overwhelmingly support our efforts. Marsy’s Law does nothing to infringe upon the rights of the accused, it seeks only to balance the rights of crime victims.”

“The General Assembly cannot change the process by which amendments to Pennsylvania’s Constitution are adopted,” Jill Greene, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said. “That right is reserved for voters, and, thus, the right of the voters to consider each amendment separately must also be respected. By bundling many amendments into one proposal, the legislature has ignored the right of the people to carefully consider each proposal on its own merits.”

Proposing amendments requires passing two sessions of the state legislature. We this lawsuit successful it would take another 2 years to pass new legislation.

About The Author

Don Shaw

Don Shaw journalist covering local news for The Pennsylvania Chronicle (717) 461-2107 don.shaw@pennsylvaniachronicle.com